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2013 Dodge Durango Test Drive

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First Impressions

A few weeks ago, I received an email notifying me of plans for my 20-year high school reunion. Suddenly feeling very old, my thoughts drifted off to yesteryear. Back in 1991 my metabolism allowed for copious caloric consumption without ill effect, zits weighed more heavily on my mind than finances, my first true love had yet to move away and become a mom to three kids, and my scalp was covered in hair. My own real hair. I can only imagine how much my classmates have changed during all those years apart.

A similar situation existed with the last Durango that Dodge (read all Dodge articles) was selling. This big and burly traditional sport utility vehicle aged rapidly, despite a redesign in 2004. It was overweight, lacking in character, and success eluded the SUV. To many family SUV shoppers, the Durango had already been forgotten before its official demise. The Durango was not unlike many former high school classmates in this regard. But there’s always that one guy that hits the gym for months in advance of the big reunion, the dude that wants to show the former head cheerleader what she’s been missing in the years since graduation. That’s what the new 2013 Dodge Durango (view photos) has done.

The only visual indicator that this new SUV is a Durango is its badge. In the span of several months, the rental lot dud has become a confident stud, accented by a tall and muscular front end based loosely on the Ram pickup and quad headlights bearing some resemblance to those found on the Dodge Charger and Challenger. Body lines are smooth instead of blocky, and the taillights now blend in with the overall design.

Forget the kid you knew before – this is a new Durango.

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About Our Test Car

Shoppers considering the 2013 Dodge Durango can choose from five different models, ranging from a rear-drive Express priced at about $29,000 to an all-wheel-drive Citadel that sells for about $44,000. The latter is what we evaluated for this review, though a few extras and an $850 destination charge brought the sticker price to $48,530.

That’s a hefty chunk of change, but it did include Inferno Red Crystal Pearl paint ($295), a rear DVD entertainment system with an overhead screen and Sirius satellite TV service ($1,695), and Hemi V8 engine accompanied by a two-speed transfer case as well as a heavy-duty alternator and cooling system ($1,895). With those additions tacked on, there’s little left on the options list other than skid plate and towing packages.

Of course, we haven’t yet discussed standard features, and in the case of the Durango Citadel, there are plenty. Several of the items are what you might expect from a top-of-the-line model, such as a power sunroof, leather interior trim, secondary audio controls, fog lights, a power liftgate, and Bluetooth connectivity. More surprising, especially for a mainstream Dodge vehicle, are goods including upgraded Nappa leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats (as well as heated rear seats), power-folding mirrors, a triple-zone climate control system, and 20-inch chrome alloy wheels. Let’s not forget the 506-watt sound system integrated with a 6.5-inch center-mounted touch screen that supports a voice-activated navigation system.

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Safety Reliability and Value

Given the title of this section, you’d reasonably expect to learn about the 2013 Dodge Durango’s crash test scores. That would indeed be the case…if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) had published the data. As of this writing, no such information is yet available, but we can fill you in on what Dodge has done to make its overhauled SUV safe for drivers and their passengers.

Packed into every Durango are six airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, trailer sway control, and electronic stability control. That last component is integral to what Dodge calls Ready Alert Braking, which recognizes sudden deceleration by the driver and prepares the brake pads to deliver maximum stopping power. If you opt for a higher-end model like our Durango Citadel you’ll open doors to a host of additional safety features, such as a blind-spot warning system, intelligent cruise control, an alert used to notify the driver if a potential front-end collision is detected, and a rear cross path detection system that helps prevent contact with other vehicles when backing up.

Clearly, there’s no shortage of equipment dedicated to protecting buyers from danger on the road, but if J.D. Power and Associates brand quality rankings are any indication, what those folks will really be looking for is protection from below-average dependability. We should note that, due to its complete redesign following a brief absence from the market, neither J.D. Power and Associates nor Consumer Reports has released specific ratings for the 2013 Durango. However, the former firm’s research did place Dodge 29th out of 34 brands included in its 2013 Vehicle Dependability Study.

That being said, Dodge has worked hard to overhaul much of its lineup for 2013, and improved quality and reliability ratings may come as a result. If a buyer does have trouble with their new Durango, they’ll be covered by a five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty as well as three years or 36,000 miles of basic coverage. Exclusive to the Citadel model is a free maintenance plan with duration equal to that of the basic warranty.

Corresponding with the Dodge brand’s relatively low quality rating are disappointing projected resale values for the 2013 Durango (view photos). According to Kelley Blue Book, the new Detroit-born SUV will be worth only 23 percent of its original sticker price after five years, compared to 38 percent for the GMC Acadia, 34 percent for the Ford Explorer, and 30 percent for the Nissan Pathfinder. In short, Durango owners will get less for their vehicle when it’s time to trade.

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